A Twisted Path or Straight Path?

In Kershaw’s “Hitler and the Holocaust,” the main idea posses the question of interpreting Hitler and his relation to the ‘Final Solution’.  According to Kershaw there are two types of interpretation: ‘intention’ and ‘structure’.  Intentionalists believe Hitler fully intended to eliminate the Jews by created an elaborate plan, known as the Final Solution, in which was the central goal of Hitler’s dictatorship.  In contrast, structuralists believe Hitler played a minimal role in creating the Final Solution, instead it was the bureaucracy who were unable to agree on a single idea on how to eliminate Jews, creating lots of chaos.

Looking further into the ‘structuralist’ interpretation, Yehuda Bauer, an Israeli expert on the Holocaust, argues the bureaucracy caused the twisted path leading to the ‘Final Solution.’  With Hitler playing a minimal role in the planning of the ‘Final Solution,’ it is difficult to argue there was a straight, direct path leading to the annihilation of the Jews.  The bureaucracy was unable to agree on clear objectives and the answer to the ‘Jewish Question,’ therefore creating chaos within the government .

The structuralist interpretation argues Hitler was minimally involved which raises the question as to whether or not Hitler was necessary in organizing and constructing the ‘Final Solution’, or was any individual in a dictator role capable of doing so?  Is the radicalization of the individuals and bureaucracy to blame instead?

The Racial Paradigm: Hitler and the Holocaust

Both Stargardt and Kershaw discuss Hitler’s leadership style. Each specifically discusses Hitler’s leadership as it relates to the extermination of the Jewish population in Germany, or the Final Solution. Kershaw discusses Hitler’s leadership style as a bottom-up approach. Stargardt similarly argues that Hitler relied on local leaders to implement his policies.

It is commonly known that Hitler had his inner-circle of advisors whom he relied on for advice and implementation. However, both articles brought up the racial issue that was central to Hitler’s regime. To orchestrate something as large as the Holocaust, mass organization was necessary.

Stargardt has a section of his article titled “The Racial Paradigm” in which he addressed the complexity of race during the Holocaust. He argued that although political decisions were made within the inner-circle, the majority of participation came from middle class lobbyists. Stargardt’s claim is logical, as mass participation had to occur in order for society’s perception to change.

This brings up the subject of societal consciousness. Although there was mass participation, was society aware of the bottom-up format of government, or were they still under the impression that this was solely Hitler’s doing?